U.S. Statement to the IAEA Board of Governors on Syria

Journalists covering the IAEA's Board of Governors session in September 2017.


IAEA Board of Governors Meeting

September 11-15, 2017


Agenda Item 7(b)


Implementation of the NPT safeguards agreement in the

Syrian Arab Republic


U.S. Statement as delivered by U.S. Chargé d’Affaires a.i. Nicole Shampaine


Mr. Chairman,

The United States thanks the Director General for his report on the implementation of safeguards in Syria and for his commitment to addressing Syria’s longstanding safeguards noncompliance.

Unfortunately, the contents of the DG’s report should come as no surprise to anyone here, as the underlying facts have not changed in the six years that have passed since this Board found Syria to be in noncompliance with its safeguards agreement.  The DG’s latest report reaffirms the Agency’s May 2011 assessment that the facility destroyed in September 2007 at Dair Alzour was very likely a clandestine nuclear reactor that should have been declared to the IAEA.  As the IAEA reported at the time, the facility had features comparable to the gas-cooled, graphite-moderated, plutonium-production reactor at Yongbyon in the DPRK.  These findings point to a clear and unsettling reality – as of 2007, Syria was working covertly with North Korea to build an undeclared reactor suited for the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons.

The pattern of Syrian behavior documented in the report is also regrettably familiar.  Over the past six years, rather than cooperating in good faith with the IAEA, Syria has continually opted for the path of obfuscation and delay – portraying itself as the victim of a political smear campaign and propagating ill-founded, conspiratorial allegations against other Member States.  Syria claims that it is willing to work with the Agency to address the substantive basis of its noncompliance.  We would welcome such a development, especially after so much stone-walling and delay.  However, the DG’s latest report confirms yet again that Syria has not provided any substantive information to the Agency regarding the Dair Alzour facility or related sites since May 2008 – more than nine years ago.

We welcome confirmation of the Agency’s plans to conduct another routine physical inventory verification at Syria’s declared research reactor outside Damascus.  But we underscore that such an inspection in no way addresses ongoing questions and concerns regarding the undeclared activities at Dair Alzour that prompted this Board to find Syria in noncompliance.  Despite cynical suggestions to the contrary, routine safeguards implementation at a declared nuclear facility will never absolve the Assad regime of responsibility for its past undeclared nuclear activities.

Syria’s excuses have worn thin.  If Syria is willing to cooperate with the Agency, why has it still not done so after more than six years?  If Syria’s narrative regarding the facility at Dair Alzour is true, why has it been unable to provide any substantive information to the IAEA verifying its claims?  Unfortunately, the answer to these questions is clear: Syria has no intention of working cooperatively with the Agency to address these concerns.  Instead, Syria is content to indefinitely delay and obstruct substantive discussion of this issue, relying on the protection of its patrons, with the hope that this Board will eventually lose interest.

We cannot allow safeguards noncompliance by any country to merely fade into our collective memory.  Noncompliance is a serious matter, and cannot be written off due to the passage of time or intransigence on the part of the noncompliant state.  The lack of recent developments should be cause for increased scrutiny of this issue by the Board, not less.  This requires continued, regular reporting from the Secretariat, and discussion at every Board meeting.  Reducing the frequency of Agency reporting or removing Syria from the Board’s agenda would send a dangerous signal that states that violate their safeguards obligations need only wait for the Board to lose interest.

There is only one path to resolving these concerns – Syria must cooperate with the Agency and provide it with access to all information, sites, materials, and persons necessary to verify the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear program.  This includes access to the three sites identified by the Agency as having a functional relationship to the reactor at Dair Alzour.  The ongoing conflict and instability in Syria caused by the Assad regime are no excuse for Syria’s failure to cooperate.  Until Syria cooperates fully with the Agency to address these concerns, the Board must remain seized of this matter and be prepared to consider further action as necessary.  We encourage all Board members, and particularly those with influence on the Assad regime, to urge Syria to cooperate fully with the IAEA to address these longstanding concerns.

We request that this issue remain on the Board’s agenda for its next regularly scheduled meeting, and for all future meetings until the Agency is able to confirm that Syria’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful and the Board has determined that Syria’s noncompliance has been resolved.  In the meantime, we look forward to continued updates from the Director General.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman